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Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence
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on November 22, 2002
The most commonly used illicit drug is marijuana. Probably it is the most controversial of all recreational drugs, as there are few people actively organizing for the reform of cocaine or heroin laws, but many would like to see marijuana laws changed. The debate on just how the laws should change and how marijuana ought to fit within American society has been plagued with misinformation long before the substance was made illegal by the federal government in 1937. The history, myths, and facts about the drug are set out anew in _Understanding Marijuana: A New Look at the Scientific Evidence_ (Oxford University Press) by Mitch Earleywine. The book is extremely useful as a summary of the research that has been done on marijuana; there are twenty-five pages of references at the end to guide anyone who needs further information. Only a specialist will need the references. _Understanding Marijuana_ is a broad and fair summary.
There is an enormous amount of misinformation about the drug, and while those that favor use and legalization may have spread their share of misinformation, the history of marijuana in the twentieth century and entering this one is a history of one scare tactic after another wielded by government agencies and individuals who wish to suppress marijuana use. Earleywine's book spends one chapter after another summarizing the experiments and statistics to debunk the most common scare stories. Cannabis intoxication does not lead to hostility, violence, or a climbing murder rate. Marijuana is not a gateway drug. There is no amotivational syndrome from marijuana use. College students who use marijuana get the same sorts of grades as students who do not. Earleywine was taught in junior high that marijuana smokers would have Cyclops-like children, but the drug has not been linked to birth defects, nor to a definitive decrease in reproductive function. In fact, marijuana might help the relatively common problem of hypoactive sexual desire disorder, but as Earleywine wryly notes, "Despite this potential promise, studies of cannabis's impact on sexual drives have not been a high priority of most research funding agencies." The claim current in "public service" ads is that using marijuana somehow funds terrorists; this was perhaps too recent to be included here, or else simply too stupid.
This is a sensible book to show that "marijuana is neither completely harmless or tragically toxic," but that it has minimal detrimental effects especially compared to drugs that are currently legal. Not only has Earleywine summarized a lot of data here, he writes clearly and entertainingly, often with a sly joke as a gift to a reader swimming in a sea of data. For instance, he writes about interesting studies that show that marijuana users learn to smoke efficiently, gauging their lung capacity and the amount that can be held without coughing, so that they get more out of a joint than new users. "Many eventually learn to inhale and report more impact from the drug. Some never learn to inhale and subsequently run for public office."
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on November 13, 2002
Understanding Marijuana: A New Look At The Scientific Evidence by Mitch Earleywine (Associate Professor of Clinical Science and director of Clinical Training in Psychology, University of Southern California) is a scholarly and painstakingly objective analysis of the highly controversial and largely illegal and pharmaceutically controlled substance known as cannabis, marijuana, ganja, as well as a host of other street names. Carefully scrutinizing the results of numerous studies of the drug, as well as taking special note of the importance not to confuse causality, Understanding Marijuana does its best to answer issues such as: Is marijuana really a gateway to "hard" drugs such as cocaine or heroin? Does it truly impair driving ability or cause auto accidents? What are its effects upon motivation, schoolwork, or job productivity? The evidence is often conflicting, but sometimes it points to answers which may be surprising. Understanding Marijuana is as free of bias as a book on a hot-button social/political/legal/medical issue can possibly be, and is especially recommended for its repeated cautions against the very common fallacies of assuming causation. Just because one thing (i.e. marijuana use) precedes another thing or coexists with another thing (such as lack of motivation) does not necessarily mean that the first item caused the second! But neither does it rule causation out, hence the need for careful, meticulous research of this highly complex issue.
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on December 22, 2002
I heard this guy on NPR and thought he sounded like he had a good head on his shoulders, so I bought the book. It is extremely impressive. I was amazed at how much research is actually out there in the first place, but I also felt like Earleywine explained it to me without being condescending or dull. I've become a bit of an expert among my friends, many of whom often spout a lot of hearsay about the drug. It's fun to be able to look something up and show it to them in black and white from a real scientist. Many of my 'abstainer' acquaintances still believe in the gateway theory and that marijuana hurts driving and that it's not valuable as medicine. I can point them to real studies showing that they're wrong. The last chapter is particularly cool and really got me thinking about marijuana policy and why we should change it.
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on December 4, 2002
Mitch Earleywine does an amazing job with this book : he stays objective. The topic of marijuana is so controversial these days that it's hard to find information that is not completely skewed in either pro or anti-marijuana use. Usually "facts" are used only to promote one side of the other and other facts are conveniently omitted. Earleywine takes on the subject with objectivity, intelligence, and a very fine wit. The book is excellently written, with enough facts and science for any hardened scientist and enough clarity for the layperson. I fully recommend it to anyone interested in this subject, and even those who are not! The book is very clever and would be interesting for almost anybody.
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on December 3, 2002
I am student at USC taking Dr. Earleywine's "Drug, Behavior, and Society" class. Without turning this into a discussion about his class, I can tell you that Dr. Earleywine knows his stuff. Not only that, but the humor he displays everyday in class is also evident in this book (he actually makes going to class seem like you are going to a comedy show, which I guess makes sense because he occasionally does do comedy shows for USC students). Anyway, this book effectively blows the government's anti-marijuana propoganda out of the water. It'll make you want to join NORML. I don't smoke, but as an American I think it is about time we ended this ridiculous and costly "War on Drugs".
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on December 2, 2002
Dr. Earlywine's book "Understanding Marijuana" provides a clear and balanced overview of current and past marijuana research. It is especially timely and important as movements for the decriminalization and legalization of marijuana are gaining popular support in a number of states. Anyone interested in the politics of marijuana laws, or those just interested in marijuana, should read this book to gain an unbiased understanding of marijuana's effects, harms, and benefits.
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on December 4, 2002
Mitch earleywine wrote a wonderful piece of literature that is as objective as such a work can be. The amount of information that he provides is staggering. this book can be understood by the common pot head, but is useful to the most studied marijuana researcher. he discussed the plant's history, science, it's place in politics, its subjective effects, and all the reasons it had been illogically prohibited.
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on March 28, 2003
This book is the best research work I've ever read. If you have no opinion on marijuana at all you can still respect the work that has gone into this book. If you do have an opinion on marijuana, for or against it, this book is also for you. It states proven facts, or statements that are backed up with facts, and is completely unbiased. For, against, or no opinion on marijuana, you must read this book.
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on December 18, 2002
In Understanding Marijuana, Earleywine presents an interesting, unbiased, scientific look at marijuana. He details the effects of marijuana, discusses harm reduction techniques, descibes the history of this wacky weed and outlines the current debates on the subject. Yet, he still keeps the reading interesting and entertaining. Seriously, a great read for someone trying to learn the facts.
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on December 24, 2002
It's finally here...that book you've been wanting to have around to silence your parent, partner, or employer who gives you too much trouble about pot. The guy knows his stuff and explains it so you can explain it to every dork who tries to tell you that pot is dangerous.
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